Right, now I’m getting nervous. Tomorrow I leave for French Guyana, and, as usual, I’ve left everything to the last minute. The list of kit seems to have stretched overnight.
It includes 250mg of ciprofloxacin hydrochloride, 10mg of buscopan, 250mg of cephradine and two pieces of string. Now the drugs aren’t a problem – it’s far too late to buy them now and I don’t suppose I’ll miss them until the first ghastly symptoms of Green Monkey Fever start to appear.
But the string is a real puzzle. I say ‘string’, but at a suggested gauge of 15mm, ‘hawser’ would be more accurate. You could moor an aircraft carrier with 15mm string. And there’s no clue as to what it’s for. Perhaps it’s for rigging up my hammock (kindly provided by the organisers). But equally it could be for strangling jaguars, abseiling down canyons or hoisting myself out of viper pits.
There’s also a darkly enigmatic warning that aspirin is not available in Guyana because of Dengue. Who in the world is Dengue? I can only presume that he is some local warlord with a penchant for misappropriating mild, over-the-counter palliatives.
My state of increasing anxiety has even permeated into my sleep, expressing itself in a series of strange and disturbing dreams. For instance, last week I dreamed that I’d written The Lord Of The Rings – but when I woke up, I realised I’d only been Tolkien in my sleep.
Then last night, I dreamed I was lying on my back in a shabby hotel room, staring as a slow fan churned through a tepid soup of sweat and stale air.
The door burst open. It was Them. One more mission, they told me. It seemed that our editor, Seaton, had gone up-river. He’d failed to return, and after some months, bizarre rumours began to percolate out from the interior: rumours of dark rites, of blood and sacrifice. Blackford, they said, you must run up-country, into the very heart of darkness, and persuade Seaton to give himself up.
For days, I jogged along forest tracks with no sustenance except two pieces of string and a sackful of unpronounceable medicines. I was occasionally the target of poison-dart attacks by fanatical followers of the execrable Dengue.
Eventually, I came to a clearing in the jungle – a place filled with dreadful silence, and marked out with human skulls. In fact, it bore an uncanny resemblance to the editorial department of RUNNER’S WORLD. In the middle of the clearing, on an ancient Aztec throne, sat Seaton.
Slowly, he turned his enormous, shaven head towards me. The firelight danced on his oiled torso. My mouth was dry with fear and a terrible thirst. I fell to my knees, and pointing to my mouth, I croaked, “A bottle! Lips! Now!”
We talked until dawn. He seemed genuinely pleased to see me. It seems he’d observed the big cats that are native to the Amazonian rainforest, and perceiving a commercial opportunity, had established Guyana’s first jaguar dealership.
I couldn’t decide which was worse, the terrible nightmares or these appalling puns. These restless nights have done nothing for my training. I keep telling myself that if I can run 100 miles across Jordan in 48 hours, then the same distance through a mere jungle and over six days should constitute a mere stroll.
Still, I’ve made a serious effort over the past few days. For one thing, I’ve cancelled the cab that normally drives me the 400 metres to Effes Turkish restaurant for my lunchtime kebab and belly-dancing demonstration.
In fact, my body is now a temple. Unfortunately, I fear it may be the Temple Of Doom.